MELBOURNE has produced a record-breaking performance to stay in the premiership hunt in the NAB AFL Women's competition.
The slick-moving Demons whipped Fremantle by 54 points at Casey Fields in Cranbourne in a dominant display for their last home-and-away game.
The 11.4 (70) was the highest score in the AFLW's inaugural season and the greatest winning margin as well to give Melbourne a chance to be the Brisbane Lions' Grand Final foe next Saturday.
Now Demons coach Mick Stinear and his players can only sit and wait for the outcome of Sunday's Collingwood-Adelaide game at Olympic Park Oval, with the Crows' superior percentage possibly the crucial difference.
Not only was Melbourne able to score almost at will on Saturday, its backline held the hapless Dockers goalless for the last three quarters.
Fremantle was always going to miss the on-ball expertise of injured skipper Kara Donnellan. Her absence was even more pronounced against an opponent that's blessed with prolific midfielders.
Melbourne made its intentions clear from the opening bounce - a clearing kick by Daisy Pearce that landed in the safe arms of Alyssa Mifsud for the first goal inside the opening minute.
It set the pattern for the contest, with the Demons hunting the ball in packs, led by midfield trio Pearce, Elise O'Dea and Karen Paxman and drive and precision from across the middle with Lily Mithen.
Melbourne's defence stood firm when they lost possession. So often, Fremantle offensive moves were easily cut off by a Demons backline well organised by cornerstones Laura Duryea, Jasmine Grierson and Melissa Hickey.
The Dockers had fearless and tireless triers rather than individual winners, like midfielder Dana Hooker, onballer Gemma Houghton and forward Amy Lavell.
The more determined Demons split open the game with a sustained opening quarter and five straight goals was the rightful return for their hard work and superior teamwork.
When the inspiring Pearce was involved in two second quarter score assists - a handball over the top to Deanna Berry in the goal square and another inboard that released Allesha Newman to score on the run - the game was virtually over as a contest.
What remained as the Demons' challenge was to maintain the intensity for what could be a crucial percentage boost, depending on what the Crows produce on Sunday.
Once again, Melbourne captain Daisy Pearce ensured that she would be in contention to get votes in the battle to become the first AFLW best and fairest winner. Pearce was the Demons' general in the midfield duels with her elite ball instincts and slick delivery by hand and foot. She finished with an impressive 22 possessions, right on her healthy average over the seven home-and-away rounds.
On the rise
Imagine what some of the AFLW players can be with another season of elite coaching? Versatile Demon Cat Phillips emphasised the potential in every team for players who are virtually new to the sport. With her Frisbee team background, Phillips has continued to excel in the heat of the contests and her hand and foot skills can only continue to improve to ensure a bright future.
Melbourne players are certainly heeding the message from coach Mick Stinear. He demanded a fast start and certainly got the right response to set up the record-breaking win. "We trawled through the stats during the week and we had been the worst first-quarter team, and Freo had been one of the best," Stinear said. "So that was a huge focus, getting off to a good start. We had got in a habit of coming from behind and doing our work late. The girls delivered on that today, started well and played their hearts out for the full game."
Five minutes of madness
Fremantle coach Michelle Cowan knew her team had to do everything right to withstand Melbourne's opening assault. So, she would have been dismayed by a couple of undisciplined acts that cost goals early in the first half. Demon Cat Phillips was nowhere near within range after a free kick, until her Docker opponent infringed the mark and the 50m penalty pulled her to the edge of the goalsquare late in the first quarter. And a relayed free kick for a late tackle on Melbourne defender Melissa Hickey gifted a goal to Alyssa Mifsud early in the second term.
"All season we've wanted to play four quarters and the girls did that. They worked hard and they played their hearts out." Melbourne coach Mick Stinear
"Full credit, they (Demons) played one of the best games I've seen. We were certainly outclassed and they were very accurate." Fremantle coach Michelle Cowan
Well done, Shelley Scott! pic.twitter.com/VNSxoCqkn8— AFL Women's (@aflwomens) March 18, 2017
MELBOURNE 5.0 8.0 10.0 11.4 (70)
FREMANTLE 2.0 2.3 2.4 2.4 (16)
Melbourne: Berry, Mifsud, Scott, Phillips 2, Paxman, Newman, Humphries
Fremantle: Antonio, Houghton
Melbourne: D Pearce, O'Dea, Mithen, Phillips, Grierson, Paxman, Humphries
Fremantle: Hooker, Houghton, Lavell, Filocamo
Fremantle: Angel (knee)
Umpires: Michael Pell, Ryan Guy, Annie Mirabile
Crowd: 2,500 (est) at Casey Fields, Cranbourne